For over 40 years it has been “abnormal” to believe that US government officials were complicit in the assassination of JFK. We now know for certain that other people played a more important role in the assassination than Lee Harvey Oswald. All of those millions of people supporting the official story were not only wrong, but in many cases, hiding themselves from an ugly truth.
Those who simply do not accept facts that contradict their view are prone to fundamentalism. This anti-intellectual position, very prominent in our present popular culture, is one that supports the widespread innocence in this country of our historic role in the world. The fear of alienation encourages self-imposed ignorance and dependence on external authority, conditions corrosive to democratic and Constitutional order. We impose the threat of alienation in order to avoid it, and in doing so we avoid the truth.
You likely have heard someone say that “its unpatriotic to question the President in a time of war.” Yet our present “War on Terror,” with no foreseeable end, was justified based on a long series of abject lies. When people become aware of such a blatant contradiction as this, they have only two choices: ignore or respond.
Most people in this country know that pollution is degrading the environment, that their clothes were made with low wage labor, and that many innocent people die in war. Most do not respond. They decide to accept the repressive structure of their system in exchange for a hollow and short-sighted optimism and comfort.
The time for avoidance and false hope has passed. We must respond. Popular awareness must rise to the challenge of formulating a better plan. But that is a very significant personal and social challenge. In a significant personal transformation, many brave individuals seeking independence and insight trade their personal fear of alienation for a sense of social responsibility in exposing the limitations of the mainstream view.
Few decisions are more challenging than deciding to operate in contradiction to social norms. When expressing the truth, we struggle to retake the authority that we have given our popular culture. In doing so we threaten the dependencies of those around us. Overcoming our tendency to support the norm in ourselves and for others, we risk losing friends, becoming estranged from relatives, losing our jobs, and even our personal safety.
And yet this is what each of us must do if we are to halt the slide of this society toward an undemocratic future. If we are to counter a number of dire threats to our Constitutional heritage, we must find independence from our fear of alienation and help others to do the same. Each of us must make a commitment to values, facts, and actions that emerge from the widest possible view.
“In sociology and critical social theory, alienation refers to the individual’s estrangement from traditional community and others in general. It is considered by many that the atomism of modern society means that individuals have shallower relations with other people than they would in a traditional community. This, it is argued, leads to difficulties in understanding and adapting to each other’s uniqueness…” 1
- Some philosophers believe that alienation is inevitably produced by a shallow and depersonalized society. Hegel, for example, believed that alienation involves an individuals failure to understand objective reality.
- Political Science / Sociology
- The separation of individuals from their humanity or the fragmentation of social bonds and community. In Marxist theory, for example, the domination of humans by their own products; material, political, and ideological.
- Some psychiatrists consider alienation to be a dissociation of a person’s feelings, causing the individual to experience internal conflict. Freud, for example, assumed that alienation involves a separation between different parts of the psyche.
- Religious Studies
- “The separation of Man from God.” 2